A Life in Provence or Maine

Okay so I don’t live my life in Provence. I did want to though, years ago. Now I probably wouldn’t do it but in 2000 I would have gone there in a flash. Alone. Nobody else in my family thought it was a good idea to go live in a place where you couldn’t speak the language fluently. They were not adventurers.

I got my sense of adventure from my father, who would have gone anywhere at any time. He loved exploring new things, seeing new places. Unfortunately his idea of a perfect vacation was somewhere on a lake or a river with a fishing rod in his hands or else all of us in a canoe while he fished. I couldn’t make noise while he was doing this. It scared the fish. I didn’t have to go along on these trips after the age of 13 – I would just stay in the cabin and read. He got tired of me telling him I needed to go to the bathroom.

I never thought much about retirement when I was 13. I didn’t think much about it when I was 43 either. By the time I was 49, my husband was retired. We picked up and left the States and moved to Canada. It was a horrendous kind of move and one I wouldn’t have done if I’d thought about it. I should have thought about it. It would have been wiser to stay in our home in Michigan and just not spend all that money. My husband didn’t want to stay in the Metro Detroit area but I loved it. It felt like home after 16 years. So we left. We could have moved to the country in Michigan, but that was too easy.

We knew my husband would have a pension. We didn’t know how small it would be compared to expenses. We also had social security and a little savings which didn’t last long when you buy a home outside of the country and you have to pay to move your stuff plus fees to immigrate, etc.

We finally left and came back to the States in 2007. That was 8 years after we moved there and 7.5 years after I decided I would need to get off the Island. I didn’t care for it at all.

When we came back there was a lot of adjusting to do. For once we had some money. We spent it on things we needed and we felt good.

I had noticed, starting about in 2000, that my husband was getting weirder or else he was just getting on my nerves more. He got angry quickly and he usually was a pretty calm guy. He did weird things. He wouldn’t let me use the garage door opener, the jacuzzi in the bathroom, hated it when I ran the water too long ……… I could go on. I became suspicious. I told our doctor that his memory was going and she said he had selective memory. No, his memory was going.

To make a long story short, he got sick, had cortical basal degeneration and he died in 2014. He was sick for 4 years and by that I mean seriously ill almost every day. There were few good days. He mostly sat in his chair with his eyes closed and would wall-surf when I told him it was time to eat.

I had to quit working because I couldn’t leave him at home alone. I needed to work, both for my sanity and the money. All of a sudden, all that money we spent moving out of the country started to annoy me.

I just read an article about a woman who lived in Monterey, California most of her life, drove a BMW, had $800,000 in her IRA and lost every dime. She bought and sold real estate when the boom was on – and that’s where we went wrong too. The housing boom was a phony bubble but our house doubled in price in 8 years. Hard not to think the good times were going to roll on.

In 2008 the housing crisis here took all the equity we’d put into our home. I don’t even think it’s back to what we paid for it yet. It needs work, but there’s no home equity to tap into to do that work. So the work will not get done.

I have learned to budget – seriously budget. I’m luckier than most retirees because I have a large enough income to squeeze out money for my hobbies. Yarn is not cheap. Sewing machines are not cheap. Not buying a spinning wheel is a good thing because fiber and wheels aren’t cheap either.

My son lives with me and we split expenses. Neither of us could live as well without the other. I do worry about what he will do when I’m gone though and have instituted a plan for that time so he won’t have to move and can stay here in the house.

I make grocery lists and menu plans. I make sure that our food budget stays at a certain limit. I am a notorious food splurger and I could spend $500 a week on groceries without even thinking. When my husband was working, it was nothing for me to spend $350 or $400 a week on fresh produce at the produce market and the rest from my neighborhood meat shop. I quit the big grocery store visits then. If I needed some odd groceries there was a little grocery shop close to the produce market and I would get stuff there.

I haven’t gone so far as to shop big box grocery stores. I tried Wal-Mart for 6 months or so and found the meat inedible and the produce rotten. It wasn’t any cheaper than a real grocery store so I went back. Now I just watch what I spend and I don’t worry about what’s on sale at Costco or Sam’s Club. I cannot abide large stores with concrete floors and warehouse shelving.

Being retired is different from what I thought it would be. I do know people my age that travel all the time and seem to have no money problems at all. People with two homes and people who just lock up one in the winter and move to the one where it’s warmer. I couldn’t do that even if I could afford it. I would rather be in my home with all my stuff around me than carting stuff back and forth.

Traveling would be fine if I had someone to travel with – there is no way the son will go along. He’s happy being at home, like his father was before him. My husband wasn’t a good traveler and always resisted my ideas about vacations. From 1978 until 1995 we only went back and forth between my parents’ home and his mother’s. We would go to Chicago quite a bit, whether we were visiting his mother or not. Traveling to my parents’ home was a long trip but made easier because we would be in the country, on a lake.

I wonder how different my life would be now if we’d both planned for retirement rather than just letting it happen. We had a damn good life while my husband and I were working. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t do, no expense we couldn’t shoulder.

I remember talking to a lady when I was working at L.L.Bean. She was ordering some pants and would only buy the khaki or the black. I offered her size to her in navy and she said “I don’t buy navy.” She went on to explain that when she retired she decided to only buy khaki and black because then she would only need brown and black shoes and a brown and black handbag and shirts that went with brown and black. She said it made her crazy, being retired. She said it was horrible and she hated her life and her money didn’t go far enough. It doesn’t.

I am grateful though. I’m luckier than most. I can afford my house although I wish the utilities were half what they are. I can’t be any colder so saving energy dollars in the winter isn’t possible. Maybe I need to invest in a wood stove. That might make it cheaper and warmer in here. But smellier too. The wood smoke makes my nose swell up and I can’t breathe. So there goes that idea!!!!!!!!!

Ah yes – a life in Provence. I could have and would have ……….. I think it’s warmer there.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer says:

    And know you CAN get by on less – trade money for time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think few people think about retirement. They assume their pension and social security will allow them to continue the lifestyle they always had but the world changes. And money is only part of it. There should be a mandatory class in high school that honestly lays out the future so people can make choices. But what’s most important is to be happy and appreciate where you are.


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